How to File to Be an Administrator of Estate After a Death

By Laura Payet

How to File to Be an Administrator of Estate After a Death

By Laura Payet

When a person passes away without a will or without designating a person or organization to oversee their assets, someone must still serve in that role under state law. If the deceased designates a person to take on this job of managing the estate, paying off remaining debts, and distributing assets to heirs and the court appoints that person, they are called the executor. If the estate does not have an executor, the court appoints an administrator to accomplish those tasks.

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Though requirements and expectations for administrators vary by state, being appointed to the role generally requires similar steps. Here is the usual process for filing to be an estate administrator.

1. Determine who has priority to serve.

State law establishes the qualifications for an administrator and sets the order of priority that the court must follow in making an appointment. In most states, the spouse of the person who passed away has first priority, followed by adult children then parents and siblings. Some states impose additional requirements. For instance, in Texas, an administrator may not be convicted of a felony. You can often find your state's rules on the website of your state court system or the state bar association.

If you do not have first priority among the surviving relatives, it is best if everyone can reach an agreement to allow you to serve. Obtain a written waiver from those with priority over you declining to serve and nominating you instead.

2. Prepare to file a petition to administer.

Find out which court has jurisdiction over probate matters in the deceased's county of residence. Most often, this is the county probate court or surrogate's court, but it may be a district court in less populous counties. Again, you can use court or bar association websites to locate this information.

Call the court clerk's office and ask about the requirements for filing a petition to administer an estate. You want to know:

  • What supporting documents you must file with the petition
  • Whether you must schedule a court hearing on the petition
  • How much the filing fees are and how to pay them
  • Whether you must also file a petition for probate

You may also need to file a bond with the court. Ask whether this is necessary and what the procedure is.

3. Collect the necessary information.

Before you file your petition, you must collect a good deal of information. First, you need the deceased's name, address, birth date, and death date. You also need the names and addresses of all the deceased's living relatives.

Next, compile a preliminary list of the deceased's assets and estimate their value. You likely need to include this information with the petition, though you will prepare a more complete catalog of the assets and their appraised value after you have been appointed administrator.

Be sure you have a certified copy of the death certificate. If the deceased left a will, you must submit it along with the petition for probate. You also need to bring any waivers that other relatives have signed declining to serve as administrator.

4. File the petition with the court.

When you have gathered all the information and documents, take them to the court clerk's office and ask for copies of the petition forms you need. Complete the petition, sign and date it, and attach the supporting documentation. File the petition and the other materials with the clerk, pay the filing fee, and schedule a hearing if necessary.

Once you have filed the paperwork, you must send all the other relatives a copy of the petition and notice of any hearing date. Generally, you may do this by first class mail, but be sure to request a return receipt in case you need proof of service. You should also check your state rules regarding service. In California, for example, the person petitioning to be administrator cannot mail the copies herself but must ask someone else to do it for her. The clerk's office cannot mail documents for you.

Managing an estate can seem like a daunting task, particularly during the difficult time following the passing of a loved one. An online service provider can help bring order to the process by providing answers to common questions and the option to consult an experienced attorney.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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